There has been significant research done about the importance of a maintaining a healthy and balanced gut. With that research has arisen the knowledge that a balanced gut correlates to a better quality of health. Imbalances in the microbiome are linked to health problems like autoimmune diseases, mental health disorders, and weight gain.
Invasive candidiasis is a common infection that affects 46,000 people each year in the United States, according to the CDC. Candida are yeasty organisms that make up the biome of the GI tract, typically without causing any problems to their host. However, if factors in the human body allow for candida to grow out of control, it can cause invasive candidiasis, a serious infection that can infect the stomach, bones, eyes, joints, heart, and blood.
While candida is naturally occurring in the GI tract, an overgrowth can enter the bloodstream and cause a systemic infection called candidemia. These types of infections are called “opportunistic,” meaning that when the immune system or some other aspect of health is compromised, the yeast takes the opportunity to take over when it is there. Candida organisms are our friends — until they’re not.
Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
Candida overgrowth symptoms like thrush and recurring yeast infections are easily medically documentable, but chronic low-risk candida overgrowths are not easily detectable. Chronic infections develop over a long period of time with small signs and symptoms appearing. These symptoms include anxiety, panic attacks, exhaustion, brain fog, acne, bloating, diarrhea, depression, and weight gain; they appear and get worse over an extended period of time.
More often than not, those who develop severe forms of invasive candidiasis are already sick. Severe candida overgrowths can cause toxic shock symptoms like low blood pressure, rapid breathing, and a fast heart rate. A candida infection of the heart can cause shortness of breath, weight loss, fluid buildup in the arms and legs, and fever.
Individuals recently hospitalized, are undergoing cancer treatment, or who have just had surgery are more at risk of developing candidiasis. Those who suffer from immune disorders or co-existing immune infections like HIV/AIDS are more at risk of developing candida. In these cases, the body is fighting so hard with the immune system that it loses the ability to keep control of the overall candida population, and it explodes.
Physicians rely on a patient’s medical history, symptoms, and lab tests to diagnose a case of invasive candidiasis. Cultures can be taken from the mouth, skin, stool, blood, urine, or even from specific organs, and allowed to grow for several days in a laboratory. A positive growth culture of candida will indicate a need for specific treatments and lifestyle changes.
Treatments for Candidiasis
Most cases of invasive candidiasis can be treated successfully with antifungal medication like fluconazole. Depending on the severity of the overgrowth, treatments continue on about two weeks after the symptoms of candidiasis have subsided. Treatment often continues even after there is a negative lab test for candida yeast in order to help prevent a potential resistant overgrowth infection.
These medications can have some nasty side effects. With the use of pharmaceutical antifungal medications, you run the risk of suffering from “yeast die-off,” a biological response to the toxins released when the infection is killed. An overuse of antifungals can lead to a resistant form of invasive candidiasis.
Diet plays a huge role in the treatment of invasive candidiasis. Certain foods help to eliminate an overgrowth, and some simply exacerbate the issues.
Foods to Include in Your Diet:
- Non-starchy vegetables provide a lot of nutrients for your body without feeding a candida overgrowth. Suitable vegetables include artichokes, onions, garlic, asparagus, spinach, all cruciferous vegetables, cucumber, eggplant, celery, tomatoes, and zucchini.
- Most fruits are too high in sugar, but there are some low-sugar fruits you can have; berries and granny smith apples are allowed in small amounts.
- Healthy fats like olive, avocado and coconut oil can help heal the imbalances in your gut. Coconut oil has an added benefit because it contains caprylic acid, which is shown to hinder a candida overgrowth.
- Enjoy healthy proteins such as fresh poultry, wild fish, and eggs.
- Non-glutinous grains are allowed in small amounts. These include oats, buckwheat groats, millet, teff, and quinoa.
- Most dairy is a no on a candida diet, but yoghurt, kefir, and butter are allowed.
- Low-mold nuts and seeds are high in healthy fats and other nutrients. Eat almonds, hazelnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and coconut.
- Enjoy lots of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and yoghurt. Fermented help populate your GI tract with the right kind of bacteria.
- Use lots of herbs and spices for adding flavor to your meals.
Foods to Avoid in Your Diet:
All types of candida infections thrive on sugar, regardless of the form it is consumed in. A strict candida diet limits the overall consumption of fruit, glutinous grains, and dairy since they are absorbed into the body in the same manner as sugar. By avoiding foods that feed candida, it’s easier to contain and prevent future complications with it.
- Avoid added sugars. You can use sugar substitutes such as stevia, xylitol, and erythritol.
- Cut out all junk food, packaged and processed foods This includes processed meats and condiments.
- Most dairy products, except the ones mentioned above, are not suitable to eat.
- Avoid most fruits, they are natural but high in sugars. This includes all fruit juices. and dried fruits as their sugar content is concentrated.
- Don’t eat glutinous grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye)
- Minimize your caffeine consumption.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
Supplements That Treat Candida
Adding a supplement to a candida detox regimen can help increase the effectiveness of an invasive candida treatment while helping to prevent “die off” symptoms.
- Grape seed Extract is proven to have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral characteristics. One study found that Grape seed Extract taken alone helped inhibit the growth of yeast cells in the body.
- Probiotics help rebalance the ratios of good to bad bacteria in the gut. Probiotics help take out candida by crowding the space that they would typically take over, and replace it with healthy bacteria.
- Bentonite Clay can help prevent the symptoms of candida die off. By surrounding the toxins produced by yeast death, the Bentonite Clay helps to remove them safely and quickly from the body.
- Oregano Oil has powerful antifungal properties. A study by the National Library of Medicine found that Oregano Oil showed significant success in the antifungal fight against fluconazole-resistant candida.
More often than not, a well-rounded and effective treatment for invasive candida involves a combination of medication, supplementation, and diet changes. By attacking the infection from all aspects of health, there is a greater chance of staying on top of the growth and the symptoms associated with a full-blown invasive candidiasis infection.
Photo: Thomas Kelly